Covid-19, creativity, in person sessions, quarantine, re-mote learning, Storystorm, teaching

Uncertainty

January has been a difficult month. My school has quarantined multiple classes in both sites I visit, without sharing much information and without providing support to the therapists/teachers who continue to provide both remote and in-person sessions. According to my school admin., as long as you are have only been in a room or in contact with a student who was exposed to someone who tested positive for less than ten minutes you have nothing to worry about. As a teacher for pre-school students with delays, who are encouraged to wear their masks, but not required to, well let’s just say . . . I’m worried.

Worry compounded with a lack of compensation, yet increasing expectations has affected my personal writing time. I’m having difficulty attending to my personal creative efforts outside of the materials I create for my students. I can’t seem to lose my concerns by creating stories as I’m used to doing.

Thank goodness for Storystorm. For the first time ever, I have completed the challenge to come up with a picture book idea for each day of January. The guest bloggers on Tara Lazar’s blog Writing for Children While Raising Them had a good deal of positive take away thoughts that have helped me through the month.

I’m hoping February will be a better month both for clarity, and creativity. I hope it’s that way for you too.

Stay safe, stay well.

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2020, creativity, home schooling, imagination, learning, pre-school classroom, re-mote learning, re-mote teaching, teaching, week before holiday break, winter holidays

Holiday Break Countdown

It’s the week before break and students in school, at home and remote, are counting down days while parents and teachers are adding up bills and carefully stacking the packages that were left on their porches.

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Concentrating on work, no matter the kind, is hard this time of year as we’re all looking forward to holiday cheer. It happens like clockwork year after year, but this last month of 2020, considering all we’ve been through, the ante’s been upped. It’s in our own best interest to do all that we can do to sleigh ride into break while working toward achieving our children’s/students’ educational goals and objectives that still need to be met.

In school, I saw the transformation begin last week. Suddenly the activities that used to hold my students’ attention just couldn’t compete.

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This week I’m going to haul out the holly, deck the halls, turn on the brightest strings of lights, hang some tinsel as Jerry Herman’s lyrics to the song We Need a Little Christmas, so aptly recommend. In other words, if I can’t beat ’em I’ll join ’em. It’ll be much more fun in the end.

So, if you’re homeschooling, or teaching whether remote or in person during this holiday season, I’d definitely suggest working in some holiday fun to whatever you’re trying to convey. I think you’ll be surprised how easy it is to fold it in once you give into it. The pay off in your children’s/students’ attention to task may be at least five if not ten-fold, of course nothing is fool proof. There will still be good days and not so good days. But by giving into the magic of the holidays you might just reduce some holiday stress while helping your child/student learn, and that’s what I’d consider a win-win.

Wishing you tidings of good cheer, happy holidays, and a way better new year,

Jan

Alison Hawkins, Angela Shante', back to school, children's books, children's writing, illustration, learning, picture book author, picture book illustrators, picture books, pre-school classroom, re-mote learning, re-mote teaching, teacher, teaching, West Margin Press

Teaching Creatively=Learning Fun!

Learning is the end goal any teacher wants their students to achieve. How a teacher gets a student there is in their lesson plans, their creativity and engaging ideas.

In The Noisy Classroom, written by Angela Shante’, illustrated by Alison Hawkins and published by West Margin Press, the main character is a little girl who is concerned about her upcoming year in third grade and the possibility that her classroom might be the noisy classroom. The noisy classroom doesn’t have the familiar structure or rules she had been used to. She’s so concerned she thinks she ought to pack up and move to Antarctica.

When it happens that she does get enrolled in Ms. Johnson’s noisy classroom she finds she’s having fun, but she’s not so sure she’s learning. The week flies by and she’s learned about: skip-counting by threes, writing a story from an ant’s point of view, playing math ball, writing calculations on her desk with dry erase markers, appreciating a poem written by Nikki Giovanni and freeze dancing her way to lunch.

Waiting to get a drink from the water fountain, she is standing behind two quiet rows of 2nd graders and realizes learning in Ms. Johnson’s noisy classroom is way better than any other class and way, way better than Antarctica.

I appreciated this book from both a student’s point of view and a teacher’s point of view. Going into a new class and meeting a teacher who teaches and manages the classroom differently than a student is used to is understandably anxiety inducing. But seeing the creativity and joy of learning presented in the persona of Ms. Johnson and her noisy classroom was validating for me as a teacher.

I’m a teacher for visually impaired and blind pre-school students. I adapt my lessons and materials dependent on an individual child’s usable vision, and try my hardest to tap into what’s fun for each child.

If I can hone in on what’s important to my student and have the lesson include whatever that might be, be it: car emblems, construction trucks, tools, happy faces, characters from TV or from movies, etc., I know I’m heading toward engaging my student’s interest in learning. When it all comes together and I see their faces light up with smiles and laughter, it’s the best!

Sometimes, it’s hard to get there. Sometimes, the thing that really engages a small child can make it difficult for them to transition onto the next task. When that happens the if . . . then scenario has to be put into action, if you do this . . . then you’ll get to do that. It’s not optimal because if the child digs his or her heels in, it takes a good amount of creative brainstorming to figure out how best to change the dynamic. And if you add on that the student is learning remotely, well you have to enlist the parents, more so than ever, to team up with you to make their child’s learning successful.

Whether you’re a parent, a student or a teacher or all three, I hope your week is full of noisy, fun creativity because that equals a whole bunch of learning!

pandemic, quarantine, re-mote learning, re-mote teaching, summer session, teaching

Two-Week Left of Tele-Teaching . . . sort of

It’s been a long haul of tele-teaching for everyone involved teachers, students, parents, grandparents etc. And we’re all looking forward to the break. Even if its only a week.

The last few weeks before summer break are usually hard in regards to kids concentration. The better weather which comes toward the end of the school year brings with it more fun things to do outside rather than inside. Now that kids are home it makes it even harder. If they’re playing in the backyard or lucky enough to have a pool they don’t want to come inside to do work even if your teacher makes it as fun as possible.

I’ve been super lucky with the parents I’ve worked with. As a teacher for the visually impaired I really needed parents to help me out. Visual skills like tracking and scanning are best taught one to one, and in person. Every parent I’ve worked with really rose to the occasion of providing targets and following my directions to help their child strengthen and develop their visual skill levels.

They’ve taped paths and mazes on their floors, made letter targets from post-its, blown bubbles or balloons for their child to track. They’ve been open to arts and crafts, painting, playdoh etc. They’ve participated in silliness and fun to engage their child and make learning happen. And with the last two weeks ahead of us I’ve reached out to them to make sure I tailor my lessons to focus their child’s skill practice to their specific interests whether its princesses, construction sites, spiders, you name it. I’ll be pulling out all the stops from puppet play, songs etc. It will be exhausting for me, probably their parents too, but if a child is laughing they’re learning.

The students I have are mandated to have summer sessions in order to maintain their skill levels so there’s not much of a break before having to go back, in fact it’s only one week. But after even such a little break the kids are usually happy to come back to the structure they’re used to, see their friends and get involved again.

My pre-school has just announced that we will continue with remote learning during the summer. I applaud this. Children who are ages 2-5 are not good with social distancing, or wearing masks. And if they’re having a rough day they need hugs.

I know some parents were upset, feeling it is somehow a bureaucratic decision that is preventing their child from returning to school but, having lost a family member to COVID-19, I feel the school made the only right decision.

The safety and health of the children, their families and all who come in contact while caring for their children is the most important factor in the decision to continue remote learning during the summer session.

Tele-teaching/remote learning is not easy and I’ve read that it’s not been as successful as many hoped, but it was in my case and in the case of my students. I imagine I’m not the only one who feels that way.

I’m looking forward to finishing up this school year and having a week off. Then beginning a safe healthy remote summer session.

Stay safe, stay well.

adjusting, creativity, learning, pandemic, re-mote learning, re-mote teaching, remote-learning, teaching, working together

Remote-“Busy” Work ??

I’m a teacher, but I have a complaint about some of the work given to students during this period of remote learning. Disclaimer-I’m speaking from the position as a mother when I state this point and the student, in particular, is my son. Anyone else out there feeling the same? Are you feeling the duality of roles, teacher vs. parent, more so than ever?

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As a teacher, I understand that the universal “we” as teachers want our students to not lose ground during this time. And as a special education teacher this involves working to the goals set up in each of our student’s IEP which we are required to follow by law. And I have to say that when remote learning works, it works well and when it doesn’t . . .

So it seems to me that work should only be assigned if it seeks to help the student learn the specific topic contained within said subject. Do I hear a “Ye-ah!” I thought so.

Now, I work with pre-school students, and that adds a variable of difficulty due to their maturity level, which compounded with the fact that my students are visually impaired further increases the difficulties in tele-teaching. My focus is specific to their goals, it has to be. It’s hard enough to keep their attention during a 30 minute session. In my case, “busy” work would not fly.

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That being said, last week my son, a high school senior, was given a project that looked like smelled like, sounded like and was “busy” work. And as a senior in HS, not usually a period of time when many students want to work hard, the task he was assigned was that much more onerous to him and by relation to my husband and I. Graduation is so close . . . and sometimes feels so far.

But in this time of quaran-teaming my husband and I got down to it and worked with our son to creatively tackle his assignment. It wound up becoming a good time. It was creative, collaborative, and in fact even fun. I still think my son’s project was “busy” work, but it allowed us to work together for success in a way that, at his age, my son hasn’t needed in a while. And working together toward what was now our mutual goal, we each gained so much. So in a way, although I nor my husband would ever tell his teacher this, as we don’t want more projects like it, we’re appreciative of the opportunity the “busy” work afforded us.

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The only way to get through this time is by working together.